George Washington University community members will join thousands of others from Washington, D.C., and the world to participate in a national signature volunteer event on Jan. 19 in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. GW students will also volunteer on Jan. 26 as part of the university’s own annual MLK Day of Service.
President Obama has designated Jan. 19 as a national day of service, and the national service event, which is open to the public and expected to draw thousands of local residents as well as visitors in town for the presidential inauguration, will be held at the D.C. Armory. Volunteers working in shifts will pack 100,000 care kits that will be sent, via the organization Operation Gratitude, to deployed service members, veterans and first responders. GW is an event sponsor, along with the Points of Light Foundation, Target, and local sponsors including HandsOn Greater DC Cares, Volunteer Fairfax and Community Blueprint.
Amy Cohen, director of GW’s Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, said having two service days will allow the GW community to participate in projects that strengthen both local and global communities.
“Dr. King said that ‘the time is always right to do what is right,’” she said. “Providing service to others in honor of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is the right way to start the new year and a new semester of service, mindful of our role as active citizens in a democracy.”
Speakers at the Jan. 19 event will include Michelle Nunn, head of the Points of Light Foundation; Laysha Ward, president of community relations for Target; and George Washington President Steven Knapp. A representative of the beneficiary organization, Operation Gratitude, will speak as well.
GW will provide transportation from Kogan Plaza to the Armory for students, staff members and faculty who wish to participate in the event. Volunteers should register online.
On Jan. 26, 250 GW students—the event is full to capacity—will work with two AmeriCorps programs, Teach for America and Jumpstart, which focuses on early childhood development, on projects in local schools. These will include cleaning and beautifying classrooms, working on materials preparation jobs for teachers, and reading with elementary-age children.
Both days of service will help GW kick off a yearlong celebration of civil rights, including the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which was held on Aug. 28, 1963.
Terri Reed, GW’s vice provost for diversity and inclusion, said she hopes the university might set a record on Jan. 19 for the number of GW community members participating in an MLK Day service event.
“It would be great to start this year of reflection by actively demonstrating our commitment to Dr. King's vision to transform our world together as brothers,” she said. “I believe that when he said, ‘Life's most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?’ he was implying that ultimately, this brotherhood is the key to truly living.”